8 mins Read
24-year-old Mumbai based Abhinav Iyer (cover image) is our first PokerGuru Young Gun of 2018. It is only in the last couple of years that Iyer showed up on the poker radar and all this time has been well utilized by this young talent who doesn`t shy away from sharing strategy with like-minded individuals and learning from the best in the process.
Iyer has arrived, and the poker story of this new kid on the block is indeed very interesting. He started playing poker in his undergrad days while still in college and by the time he moved over to Australia to pursue his post-graduation degree, Iyer had moved up in stakes and was also putting in more volume on the cash tables. The fascination for the sport forced him to quit his job in just three months post his return to India and before he knew it, he was a poker pro!
The Tamilian comes from an orthodox family and that was the major reason he was discreet with them about his passion for poker till the time he had accumulated a few notable scores to prove his skills. His family eventually came around so much so that we are told his dad now even suggests Iyer to fold a few hands once in a while!
Iyer is a well-grounded player and counts his fortunes for having the opportunity to know and interact with some of the best poker minds in the country like Aditya ‘intervention’ Agarwal and Aditya Sushant. Like most budding poker talents, Iyer too feels his game has improved just after a few chats with Adi and Sushi!
Known online on Adda52 as ‘checkshove’, Iyer has made numerous scores and is even set to play the final table of the BIG Millions tomorrow, which pays ₹30 lakhs to the first-place finisher.
A short chat with Iyer and it becomes clear that a rigid plan isn’t exactly what makes him tick but on the other hand, he thrives on the freedom to do things on a whim.
Iyer in this interview talks to us about his poker journey so far, his major poker achievements till date, family support, outlook on the current poker trends and his plans for the future. Here are the excerpts –
I’m 24 years old, I am a Tamilian but have been born and brought up in Delhi and Mumbai. I pursued under graduation in commerce then I did my masters from Australia. I came back to India after doing my post-graduation in November 2016 and have been playing poker professionally since then. I was playing semi-professionally in Australia and now I live in Mumbai with my parents.
I did take up a job in the sports management field but eventually I felt I was not giving enough time to poker and I didn’t find that job challenging enough. I eventually decided to move to poker instead and quit my job in March last year. Since then, I have been playing poker full time.
How and when did you come across the sport of poker?
It’s been a pretty long journey to be honest; I started playing when I was in my undergrad. I used to play small stakes cash games with my friends and played on Zynga on the side as well. Was killing time to be honest, then slowly, I progressed and that’s when I met a lot of new players like (Young Gun) Ashish Munot who is a very dear friend of mine, we started playing poker around the same time during our undergrad days. During our college days, we used to meet at a common friend’s place. We used to grind cash games there.
From the time I started, poker used to fascinate me a lot and I was very passionate about the sport since the beginning. When I moved abroad, I found a bit of free time along with my studies as well so I ventured into poker a lot more. That’s where I picked up online poker on PokerStars and I also used to play cash in Crown Casino; like from small to high stakes cash games. Once I came back, as I said I chose poker over my job.
What do you prefer, live or online?
I prefer both. Two years back I would have said live all day long but since online poker got the boom and I learnt and evolved a lot more through online poker by putting in more volume, I will say I love both formats online and live. I like the entire aspect of live and like online tournaments more. I would prefer playing cash live but right now the Indian cash game scene is not the best.
How much do you play & which variant of the game do you prefer playing?
I play close to 8-10 hours a day for 20-25 days a month. So, 150-200 hours easily. Earlier it used to depend on time. I prefer Hold’em any day. I do play PLO but I am more inclined towards Hold’em.
What’s your grinding schedule like?
The regime starts at 4-5pm everyday, be it live or online. This would go on till 1-2 am. Then I ensure I sleep 8-10 hours every day so I am well rested and generally take 1-2 days off every week to maintain work-life balance. I try to balance every aspect.
What’s your family’s understanding of the game?
Until last year in February, I hadn’t informed my parents about poker. I was very skeptical about their perception coming from an orthodox family, I really didn’t know how to break it to them. I thought I would do something, which is worthwhile, and show some results to prove that it’s a skill game.
First, I was living abroad so I didn’t want to tell them and then when I came back, I told them once I finished 7th in the DPT Main Event. My mom is an IIT professor so she kind of understood, she read a lot about poker.
They were not initially supportive as they wanted me to continue poker as a hobby but once I quit, I convinced them to let me try for some time. They got convinced and are fully supportive as of now and they watch me play and try to understand every move. My father even tells me to fold some hands these days (chuckle). Even my extended family is supportive at the moment and are enthusiastic about what I am doing. So, it’s very encouraging at the moment.
How do you go about improving your game?
So, I was a part of the AceJack stable, I was one of the first horses of the stable. We used to have a lot of discussions with all players. Now, I have a lot of training videos and visit a lot of training websites. It’s continuously helping me to improve my game.
Coaching depends on who I feel a good mentor would be. I would definitely go for coaching if I find a good mentor. I have been lucky enough to be associated with great poker players like Aditya Sushant, Kartik Ved, and Ashish Munot. They help me in difficult spots and I call them in certain situations to discuss hands.
What are your views on the increasing number of tournaments and bigger guarantees on online sites in the country?
Increasing number of tournaments and GTD’s are really good for the poker industry. Exactly why as a player, there is a need to make adjustments regularly and constantly studying the game is very important. Poker players get some tax rebates from the sites which is extremely good and makes it +EV for players as these big guaranteed tournaments are smaller buy ins than live events which have a bigger buy in and the variance is much higher too. It’s going to get bigger if there are new entrants in the market, which is highly likely with the different leagues on television.
What are your views on the number of new online sites starting in the industry?
I don’t think the new sites have the right approach. They want to do everything like the established sites which isn’t the right approach. A lot of money is spent on promotions or on pro sign ups which might not help the site at all.
I saw many sites signing big pros and eventually they fall out. These sites last for two months due to these unwanted expenditures. Also, bad market research is a major reason. I think there is a lot to be learnt from several sites.
What are your views on the various poker leagues coming up in the country? How was your experience being a part of PSL Season 1?
I feel the various leagues are a very good thing as they are taking the game mainstream through TV broadcasts. PSL is going to be on TV in May so it’s a big thing. It was an incredible experience in Season 1. Mingling with the best kinds of the world, it was incredible and I feel the players got better after hanging with them.
There will be a lot of players due to TV broadcast. I feel if these leagues do good on TV, the poker boom will definitely come. Even if 5% of our population picks the game, it’s huge for our industry which currently has maximum of 500 professionals.
Where and how often do you travel for poker?
I travel for a decent time across the country for cash games and visit places like Kolkata, Bangalore and Goa for tournaments. Last year I traveled to Manila so I keep traveling once in a couple of months. I want to make more international trips now.
What live events are you planning to attend later this year?
This year I was initially planning for Aussie Millions but couldn’t do it but looking forward to Vegas for World Series which I am planning. That’s been a dream for four years, I have been trying every year but somehow the logistics don’t work out. Like two years back, I was planning but my exams fell at the same time and last year I had just joined AceJack so I couldn’t really make it. I hope I can make it this year.
I would want to play some cash games here and look for good value events and hopefully play the WSOP Main Event too.
Any tips you want to share for upcoming poker enthusiasts and people who wish to travel for poker?
Be patient, don’t be restless. The results will come over a period of time. You will have to work on your game and bankroll management very well. Get coaching if possible, continuously improve. Discuss a lot with good players and understand the best players.
Who are the players you look up to?
Domestically, Aditya ‘intervention’ Agarwal and Aditya Sushant. These are the best in the Indian circuit. I am lucky enough to have interacted with both of them on a personal level so it has been very good for me.
I do speak and try to keep in touch with Adi. With Sushi, we are talking about poker every alternate day. So, these are the two I look up to. They have tonnes of experience and they have tonnes of wisdom to share. My game has improved since I met Adi.
In the international circuit, Daniel Negreanu. He has been there for two decades and he has been continuously improving. A lot of Germans are really good too.
What are your plans for future? Any set goals?
I don’t really like to set goals and take it as it comes. I feel if I make specific goals, I will be under pressure so why do it like that. Playing poker is not a 9-5 job, a lot of people think it’s much more relaxing playing poker but it is stressful.
Any parting words or anything you would like to add?
Grind on and put volume. The results will come.
Iyer signs off!